DENVER — The Browns are still feeling dangerous.
With their 17-16 win over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night, the Browns kept their slim playoff hopes alive. The triumph in the nationally televised, prime-time showdown at Broncos Stadium at Mile High was their first victory against Denver in 28 years.
Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled with his accuracy for the vast majority of the game — he went 7-of-18 passing in the first half — and committed two turnovers. However, he delivered in crunch time by throwing the go-ahead touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Mayfield finished 18-of-31 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and a rating of 83.8. He is 5-6 as a Browns starter.
The Browns (6-7-1) are now 4-2 since they fired coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Oct. 29 and promoted interim coach Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens. They have won four of their past five games.
And they defeated the Broncos (6-8) for the first time since Oct. 8, 1990, snapping an 11-game losing streak in the series and dashing Denver's playoff dreams.
The Browns opened the second half with a marathon of a drive, but the 15-play, 43-yard series ended with them giving the ball away instead of scoring. On second-and-6 from Denver's 36, defensive end Adam Gotsis strip-sacked Mayfield, and fellow Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe recovered the fumble at the 40 with 5:49 left in the third quarter.
The next series, the Broncos turned the takeaway into a 13-10 lead when Brandon McManus capped an eight-play, 36-yard drive by making a 42-yard field goal with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter. Quarterback Case Keenum threw incomplete under pressure during the previous play.
The Broncos lost cornerbacks at an alarming rate late in the third quarter. Bradley Roby suffered a cut in his mouth and received medical treatment on the sideline, and Jamar Taylor, formerly of the Browns, used his left hand to take a shot at receiver Breshad Perriman's face mask with 39 seconds left and was ejected. Perriman retaliated in Taylor's face, and both players were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
A play later, another Browns' possession ended when edge rusher Von Miller became the Broncos' all-time leader in sacks by taking down Mayfield.
But during the Broncos' first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, Browns cornerback TJ Carrie intercepted a pass Keenum intended for receiver DaeSean Hamilton with 14:41 left in the fourth quarter.
The Browns took over at the Broncos 48 and orchestrated a six-play, 48-yard scoring drive.
On first-and-goal, Callaway beat safety Justin Simmons on a slant route and caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield, allowing the Browns to seize a 17-13 lead with 11:44 remaining in the fourth quarter. Mayfield went 4-of-4 passing for 39 yards during the march, and the Browns scored their 15th touchdown on their 15th trip into the red zone under Kitchens.
The Broncos trimmed their deficit to 17-16 on the next series, a 13-play, 64-yard march, when McManus made a 29-yard field goal with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter. The officials appeared to miss a fumble by Broncos rookie running back Phillip Lindsay and a delay of game penalty on the previous play.
Rookie running back Nick Chubb ripped off a 40-yard rush to begin the next possession. The Browns advanced to the 10, where on fourth-and-1, Gotsis beat left tackle Greg Robinson and tackled Chubb for a 2-yard loss with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos advanced to the 50, but strong safety Jabrill Peppers sacked Keenum with 39 seconds left to seal the Browns' win.
The score was tied 10-10 at halftime.
The Browns forced three-and-outs on the Broncos' first two possessions and scored a touchdown in between.
Facing third-and-9 on the Browns' first possession, Perriman jumped to catch a 31-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield as he fell into the end zone with cornerback Tramaine Brock closely covering him. With the four-play, 51-yard drive, highlighted by Perriman's first touchdown since Dec. 4, 2016, the Browns captured a 7-0 advantage with 11:49 left in the first quarter.
Aided by a 25-yard penalty, the Broncos struck back on their third possession. On second-and-8 from the Browns 28, cornerback Terrance Mitchell was flagged for pass interference at the 3 on an incomplete pass from Keenum to rookie receiver Courtland Sutton.
Then on third-and-goal, Keenum faked a handoff and scrambled to his right for a 1-yard touchdown, avoiding defensive end Myles Garrett's diving attempt at a tackle on his way to the end zone. The 13-play, 88-yard drive allowed the Broncos to tie the score 7-7 with 3:18 remaining in the opening quarter.
The next time the Broncos had the ball, they advanced to the Browns 27, where the 12-play, 61-yard drive fizzled when Keenum threw incomplete as Garrett pressured him. The Broncos settled for McManus' 44-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead with 8:16 left in the second quarter.
Greg Joseph made a 40-yard field goal on the next series to tie the score 10-10 with 4:53 to play in the second quarter. The Browns resorted to the kick after defensive end Zach Kerr batted a Mayfield pass on third-and-10 from the 22. The Broncos assisted the Browns during the nine-play, 53-yard drive by committing three defensive holding penalties
The two teams traded interceptions and three-and-outs late in the second quarter.
Peppers jumped in front of Sutton in the end zone and, with his arms extended, intercepted Keenum's pass with 1:42 left in the second quarter. With the turnover, they became the first Browns team to tally 29 takeaways through the first 14 games of a season since 2008.
After each team went three-and-out, the Browns were in field-goal range and faced first-and-10 at the Broncos 30 when Mayfield overthrew receiver Jarvis Landry and was intercepted at the 2 by safety Dymonte Thomas with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.